Dealing with the IMF

Azim M Mian
Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022

Washington is a key reference in some hotly debated issues in Pakistan. The PTI government’s surrender-like agreement with the Washington-based IMF, has pushed Pakistan’s citizens into more misery.

The agreement to the conditionalities of the IMF has been signed by the rulers in Islamabad, on behalf of Pakistani citizens. And they are being enforced with all the burdens of this agreement. The unbearable cost of food and basic needs for survival is being paid by citizens without knowing why. The Covid-19 pandemic and the rising costs in the Western world are cited as a justification but no one in Pakistan talks about the security and financial support that was provided to the citizens of these countries, ranging from free supply of food to other needs during lockdowns and restrictions.

Interestingly, a handful of Pakistanis in the US have been able to buy lands and properties in Pakistan with the money the US government paid to them as loans, grants and unemployment benefits. No government minister or official talks about such responsibility of the government and the state, while enjoying their rides in their chauffeur driven cars with armed security around them.

Frustration and lack of coordination among the members of the Pakistani delegation was obvious when they visited New York during a weekend of inconclusive negotiations with the IMF. Subsequent events proved the reality of negotiations and tough conditions from the IMF.

If previous governments have kept their deals with the IMF secret, this government – with its claims of ‘tabdeeli’ – can at least unveil a change by making the deal public for debate and discussion. A disclosure of previous deals with the IMF can provide an opportunity to the people of Pakistan to compare the current agreement and see whether our national security has been compromised. This can help PM Imran Khan to win the public’s trust and willingness to bear the burden with compassion.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has also conceded in a public statement that agreements with the IMF do compromise national security matters, to some extent. To overcome the trust deficit, it is imperative that the PM lets the nation know the nature of the current agreement with the IMF. In the same breath, he should also reveal past deals with the IMF by past governments.

In the American political system, international and bilateral treaties are submitted to the US Congress for debate and approval before implementation. Pakistani rulers should also adopt similar provisions to strengthen democracy in Pakistan. Transparency, accountability, truth and public trust can strengthen the security and unity of a politically polarised Pakistan.

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf, deserves credit for his work in carving out a document on the National Security Policy with a few pages released for public use; rightfully, the major part is confidential. Of course, there is room for improvement in this policy, to induce more public support and trust among Pakistani civilians.

Highly polarised politics, blame game among political parties, sliding economy, and changes in alliances in the South Asian region have led to a lot of concerns about the security situation in the region.

The public part of the security policy needs to cultivate civilian support and confidence, an essential requirement for national safety and security. In view of the US-India agreements – from intelligence sharing to defence production – a public statement is warranted to assure the public and our friends about our nuclear capabilities and equally serve a notice to our neighbour and the world at large.

We need to reiterate that Pakistan’s nuclear assets and delivery systems are safe, secure and deterrent to meet any challenge from the enemy. Such a declaration would not compromise confidentiality but actually work towards refuting rumours and speculation by some domestic and global elements that the current bad economy and difficult provisions of the IMF agreement have not compromised or threatened the nuclear security of the country.

The real strength of national security lies in a country’s civilian population. Pakistan’s experience of the 1965 war with India and the 1971 war speaks for itself. The high morale of unarmed civilians provides undeniable support to the armed defenders on the frontiers of any country.

Pakistan has faced and suffered through economic and military sanctions for a long time in its struggle to achieve nuclear capacity. In view of continuous threats, an official reiteration of its nuclear capability is warranted. The fluctuating economy and a fragile and troubled Afghanistan need to be addressed.

In addition, Pakistan also faces challenges from within. Elements serving foreign interests have been active in Pakistan since long. The current times cannot be an exception.

There are also some negative rumours doing the rounds about the confidential part of the national security policy. In this changed world of the 21st century, we need to respond effectively to the challenges of the hour.

The writer is a journalist based in the US.